Professor Wang Jisi, Founding President of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies at Peking University, spoke about “Beijing’s National Security Strategy After the 20th Communist Party Congress” at an RSIS seminar on 3 April 2023. It was moderated by Associate Professor Hoo Tiang Boon.
The seminar examined Beijing’s concept of “comprehensive national security,” which comprised sixteen types of security that would serve the overarching goal to maintain the domestic stability of China’s party system. Development would remain a priority, but security could override it now when Beijing’s threat perception and high vigilance prompted a “securitization of everything” that would likely accelerate despite still being assessed by policymakers, especially the Communist Party of China’s National Security Commission headed by the top leaders. The comprehensive national security concept had become a guiding principle for policymaking and an ideological weapon against felt threats, particularly the US as it was seen to be suppressing China’s development and causing multiple challenges like technological sanctions. Prof Wang elaborated that China’s national security strategy had undergone four stages of change, from Beijing’s tilt toward Washington in the Cold War (1979-1989) and “stability” (1990-2008) to proactive “struggle” (2009-2016) and internal consolidation against external threat (2017-now).
The seminar concluded with a Q&A session which saw a lively discussion. Audience members asked about issues like China’s possible strategic overreach, the security dilemma between China and the US, and China’s response to US military presence in Southeast Asia. Prof Wang said that China’s advantage in Southeast Asia was mainly economic and that China was building friendlier relations in the world. However, the perception gap between China and the West was expanding, and he was afraid that the Sino-American competition would continue and there could be a military showdown over Taiwan or the South China Sea. More talks between the two sides might not help, since the central problem was not mistrust, but the domestic politics in both countries that kept them apart. Prof Wang believed that the harsh rhetoric and reality of US’ attitude toward China had made Chinese policymakers give up hope on improving current relations with the US.